Having flown across the Atlantic, found immigration at Miami somewhat eased – thank goodness – I travelled north to Surfside. Where is that? Surfside is north of Miami Beach, south of Bal Harbour and, in the 1930s and decades following, was renowned for the celebrity hang-out known as The Surf Club.
Now, the quaint club building has been vastly expanded and brought into the 21st century with a highly expensive “bang” as the newest Four Seasons luxury hotel. It is, honestly, absolutely gorgeous.
With 77 rooms and suites, my room, number 1203, looked out far over the Atlantic. Its sunset views were magnificent, as was the décor. My welcome was pretty special. I had what you need to make the Club’s signature Surf Club Mangareva, a 40-degree-proof cocktail with apple spirits, lemon, lime, honey, coconut milk and brandy, and snack off ceviche with fruit, and vegetable crackers. This was, by the way, practically the only colour in the entire room. Designer Joseph Dirand, who only wears black, specialises in colour-free off-white and taupe. Here, rooms, and entire bathrooms, are formed of travertine stone streaked with the lightest possible grey – though I did get colour on my Samsung when it showed golf at Augusta GA.
Dirand specialises in textures, so my ceiling had ribs, my walls had vertical flutes, there were waves on the front of bureaux – all self-coloured (the exception was the mottled moss green on the front of the minibar, which matched the sofa at the foot of the bed). Want more colour? Well, look out at the stunning ocean or head down to the public areas on the ground floor. As GM Reed Kandalaft explained, the gorgeous bar, with its full-size palms, is half of the Surf Club’s original ballroom. The other half is Le Sirenuse, the Italian restaurant that the hotel runs under licence from the Positano original (sadly I just missed that hotel’s owner, Antonio Sersale, who returned to Italy two days ago after spending weeks here making sure that this Florida luxury hotel would do justice to the Sirenuse name).
And, on the morrow, what a marvellous start to the day! On over 3.2 hectares of beachside land, the hotel is flanked by residential blocks that look sleek as sculptures, new as today and ready for tomorrow. The heart of the whole complex – masterminded by Beirut-born tech and real estate entrepreneur Nadim Ashi – is the 80-year old Surf Club, which still retains an invitation-only club element. By daylight, the hotel’s stunning greenery-filled bar and adjacent restaurant are even more beautiful. Breakfast here is a delight, looking up at the room’s barrel-vault wood ceiling, looking out at the ocean: try a special, say a waffle all’Italiana with berry syrup or an egg-white omelette with black truffle.
Outside, the original 1930s corridor, from Collins Street running east to the beach-set terrace, is flanked by 10 tall palm trees. Look right as you walk out to an enormous banyan tree that looks centuries old; apparently it was airlifted here only a few months ago and came in five pieces, which have since been reformed as a jigsaw.
Inside, the rear of the corridor is a photo gallery with over a hundred classic images of all the big celebrities of the past who used to hang out here. The only obvious omission is Sir Winston Churchill who, by some accounts, used to come and paint here. A fascinating book, in all bedrooms, is Assouline’s history of the Club, that I long to read properly on my next visit. But there are also tomes, in the main lobby, on Dior and Valentino and so many others.
One highlight not to be missed is the spa, where treatment rooms look right out to the ocean. Designer Joseph Dirand’s rooms are as white as his bedrooms upstairs – and, as there, he has used travertine everywhere, even wrapping the German massage beds. My Hungarian therapist, who had her own studio in New York before moving here, for the sun and for Four Seasons’ reputation, called on her years of wisdom as she decided on an Austrian product, Susanne Kaufmann, new to me (afterwards at least a couple of people exclaimed at the result). Another highlight was definitely my steak tartare at dinner last night: with its crowning frame of tiny green leaves, it looked a winner and its taste was divine. As was illustrated so perfectly, leaving a luxury hotel feeling better and with a myriad of happy memories indicates the value there is in today’s world of top-end travel.
(Mary Gostelow travels over 300 days a year, doing one-night stands in top hotels around the world. Read her daily travelogue: www.girlahead.com